For standard definition PE7 can split video on timecode... so everytime you start and start your computer a new clip will be generated in the Organizer. You can also capture clips with no timecode, analog tape captured thru a DV capture device for example, and have PE7 split it be scene content. These clips all end up in the Organizer... here you can tag your clips or get PE7 to auto tag them, ie it will tag certain quality criteria... dark, unsteady, no movement, poor quality... etc.. etc. In the Organizer you can also make folders and organize your clips.
When you edit you can import these clips into the project. Here you can again place them in folders within the project Media Bin.
Format and aspect ratio are chosen for the project. Once chosen they are fixed for the project. However you can bring the different formats into the project... but you can not change the project format.
PE7 has the choice of Sceneline or Timeline mode. And you can switch between them.
You can unlink the audio and video and cut one or the other or both.
I found PE very intuitive and picked it up fairly quickly just playing with it, without the need for training.
The spec of your laptop is fine for editing standard definition material. If you want to work with high definition you should think of a dual core processor.
Why not download the trial and give it a try.
As an addendum to Paul's excellent reply, PE is a non-destructive NLE (NonLinear Editor), so the edits are done in the Project only and NOT to your original footage. It remains untouched, and anything that you do is only a set of instructions, contained in an XML file. Your Assets are untouched.
As to the Timeline and WMM, you will find much more power in that of PE. To me, there is no comparison. Now, do not throw away WMM, as it does work well with formats like WMV (sometimes a bit of a problem for DV-AVI Type II-based NLE's such as PE and its big-brother PrPro). It also can Capture from a few devices, that PE cannot. Keep it as a tool, in your editing "toolbox."
As for the laptop, I agree with Paul's accessment. The CPU will handle SD material fine, as will the RAM. Luckily, you have a large HDD for a laptop. Unfortunately, you only have one. A work around would be to use FW-800 (IEEE-1394B) external HDD's. If you have a PCMICA slot, or an ExpressCard slot, you can purchase a controller card (check that your BIOS can handle FW-800). Though I have 3x300GB SATA II HDD's, I use a handful of 2TB FW-800 HDD's that I edit to/from.
Correct me if I'm wrong, but my experience has been that scene-analyzed footage doesn't end up in the Organizer as separate clips.
When PE can do timecode-based splits (i.e. SD digital), each "clip" is actually a separate (new) DV-AVI file, and is cataloged as such in the Organizer.
But for scene-analyzed content (SD analog, HD), each "clip" is nothing more than in- and out- points for the original file. The original file will appear in the Organizer, but the "clips" will only appear in the Project Panel.
I only mention this because as a new user it took me a while to figure out the difference between a "clip" that's simply an in-and-out-point referencing the original file and "clips" that are truly files. It makes a difference in where they appear and what you can do with them.
Having said that, ScenealyzerLive can do scene analysis on SD material and produce individual AVIs, and HDVSplit can do the same for HD material - something PE cannot (err... *will* not) do.
That's my understanding, anyway...
ETA: I would second working in timeline mode. It's maybe a little harder at first, but *infinitely* more flexible.
Yep, what you say about splitting by scene content is correct. The "split" clips are referenced in/out points in a folder in the projects Media Bin. Personally I do not use it as I find the splitting to be rather hit-or-miss... and in the end I have to go back and "tidy" it up. So I might as well split it myself using the clip monitor, manually setting in and out points and dragging the clips to the Media Bin.
I don't have the expertise that the previous responders do, but I thought you might find perspective from a 4-week user helpful.
I've been pleasantly surprised at how easy it's been to learn some basics (and some things that I don't think are incredibly basic) in PE. Considering that I paid $70 for the software, it's been a heck of a good deal.
I didn't any video editing experience beyond Movie Maker before picking up PE, but in my first project I was able to:
- Import with no problem from my Canon GL-2.
- Easily make clips from the footage I'd shot at multiple angles.
- Separate the audio from video so I could use the audio from one clip with the video from another.
- Add in sound effects I'd found on the web.
The acutal work in PE took me about 6-8 hours, and that was before I discovered some really helpful resources like this forum.
Four weeks later I'm working on my next large-ish project, and I'm using a lot more functionality:
- Using a green screen to composite a cityscape through a window behind a "news anchor" type desk setup.
- Cropping the news anchor clip for that little bit of edge where the camera view went outside the green background.
- Crawling stock ticker titles.
- Integrating lots of different sources -- my Canon footage, desktop capture with Community Clips, .jpgs for intro screens, and digital audio captured on a separate device.
I've been really impressed at how easy PE has been to learn; I was a little concerned that the stuff I wanted to do would take many hours to figure out, but that really hasn't been the case.
Of course, I'll need to put those hours in to make everything look really good, but that's a function of the user, not the software.